The World Must Know. When, Where, and By Whom. A History of the Trinity.
By Chester L. Schierbaum
When? Some 296 years after Pentecost, and where? About 800 miles north of Jerusalem in the town of Nicea on the shores of the Bosporius and about 20 miles from Constantinople.
Why is this information of interest? Something that Jesus had said to the Apostles just moments before he was taken up from them puts this whole doctrine in complete opposition to what was established, practiced and commanded by the Apostles on this Jewish Feast Day of Pentecost. Theirs’ was the only method of baptism used in the early church as recorded in the book of Acts, the only book in the Bible that contains the history of the early church.
Luke 24:36-53 records their last meeting with Jesus. Over some broiled fish and honeycomb they had given Him, He explained that it behooved Himself to have suffered, and rise again on the third day. And in verses 47-48, He states, “Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem and ye are witnesses of these things.”
Three powerful things were said in the one last command. First, that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name. Exactly what the apostle Peter preached under the anointing of the Holy Ghost. In Matt. 16:18-19 Christ had called Him by name, giving Him the keys to the kingdom with the condition that “Whatsoever He bound on earth shall be bound in heaven,” and “Whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven,” answering someone in the crowd who had asked the kingdom, question of “What shall we do?” He answered, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Here He applied the keys to the kingdom and loosed the soul saving formula for the human soul. At Nicea it would be bound.
In order to achieve credibility for this doctrine, the credibility and reputation of Peter will have to be destroyed. In Acts 10 where the angel appeared to Cornelius and told him to send to Joppa for Peter and his instructions, Peter is still God’s man of the hour, eleven years after Pentecost (Clarke’s commentary).
Secondly, “beginning at Jerusalem,” and again, exactly where it all started. Not in Nicea, a Gentile town some 800 miles away.
Third and last, “Ye are witnesses of these things.” It would happen in their lifetime. In fact, only ten days from this one, the day of His ascension, not the 296 years it would take for the Trinitarian doctrine to be assimilated into the church that existed at that time. At its first consideration in 325 A.D., only the Father and the Son were placed into what we now know as a “Triune Godhead.” It would be another 56 years in 381 at the council of Constantinople before the Holy Ghost would be placed in the third position of this Godhead of “three persons.” The spirit of truth was not the author of this religious circus. Some tragic things would happen to the Church between Pentecost and the council of Nicea. To our sad dislike, the church in Jerusalem was destined to fade and a new one at Rome would emerge as number one. It would be a far cry from the one that flourished in Jerusalem under the apostles, being void of the Holy Ghost leadership they had. We find strange and wide departures from the teaching of God’s word, both in doctrine and practice, reverting to a ritualistic form of worship, praying to Mary, advocating purgatory, confessing sins to a priest, selling indulgences (buying one’s loved ones out of purgatory), and killing the ones it considered as “heretics.” These are just some of the big changes. It would be a coalition of church and state that would craft and enforce this doctrine upon the Christian world. The dispute arose from within the body of religious believers but the Emperor Constantine (Nicea 325 A.D.), and Theodosius (Constantinople 381 A.D.) would call the councils that cemented this doctrine into practice.
Under Theodosius in 381, this doctrine reached its finality. He would also be the last Emperor to rule over the whole of the Roman Empire as the hoards of Goths or barbarians would sweep down and conquer this mighty state of Rome. The church, however, would survive and have the responsibility of this doctrine as its own.
Had the Jews remained in charge of the church, this doctrine would never have come to be, for they remain to this day devout believers in only one God. This is a major stumbling block in our effort to persuade Jews to become Christians. Few people know it but it is also the main cause that caused Mohammed to reject Christianity and found the new and false religion of “Islam.” The encyclopedia bears this out very plainly. In the Quran, Mohammed called this “Mixing Gods with God” and makes them “companions of the flame.” In Sura 5 verse 73, he states, “They do blaspheme who say God is one of three in a trinity, for there is no God except one God. Who will stand in the Day of Judgment and say, “Let their blood be upon us, for the doctrine we embraced influenced their error?”
While the Apostles remained, notably Peter and Paul, the Holy Ghost leadership was strong. But Jude, writing in 65 A.D., Chapter 1:3, notes a falling away. Severe persecutions would thin their ranks. Some Jews did the bidding of Satan when they stoned Stephen. Herod slew James the brother of John, seeing it pleased the Jews. He took Peter also, but God’s angel set him free. This started a long line of persecution against the Church that would drag on until 313 A.D. This persecution came at the hands of the Roman Government. When it came to a close, there would be a short pause and the Roman Catholic Church would take up where the Roman Government left off.
But the persecution by the Roman Government would claim the lives of both Peter and Paul, with John the Revelator being the last of the Apostles to die, in about 100 A.D. The demise of the Church in Jerusalem was hastened by the trouble Rome was having with the Jewish inhabitants of that city and the strong contempt they felt towards them. So when a fire broke out in Rome in July of 64 A.D. and burned for six days and nights, the people were on the verge of revolt against Nero, he craftily blamed it on the Christians. This caused a new degree of persecution against the church that would only get worse. Six years later in 70 A.D., the Roman General Titus laid siege to Jerusalem finally destroying it along with its magnificent temple. The Church that Jerusalem had given birth to was now virtually out of the picture, paving the way for the one in Rome to begin its rise to prominence.
The persecution of Christians by Rome would see a change beginning in 306 A.D. when the Army in Great Britain proclaimed Constantine to be the emperor of Great Britain, Spain and Gaul (now France). Maxentius, another Roman emperor was ruler over Italy and North Africa. He harbored a deep hatred for Constantine, who had killed his father and wanted to be ruler over it all. He became openly verbal against Constantine and tore down all his statues in Rome.
Acting first, Constantine gathered an army of 40,000 men and marched to Italy, meeting at Sax Rubra, 20 miles from Rome at the Milvian Bridge that crossed the Tiber River. Nearing sunset on October 27, 312 A.D, Constantine was staring across the river at Maxentius and his army of 120,000, which included the dreaded Prateorian guard. Facing an army three times the size of his, it would be a time to pray. (His God was “Mithra,” an ancient Persian Sun God, and it is believed he faced the evening sun to pray.) But what he saw was a vision of a cross and these words, “Hoc Signa Vinces” or “In this sign conquer.” So convincing was the vision that he proclaimed himself to be a follower of the God of the Christians.
The next day, October 28, the two armies joined battle and fought like lions, but the larger army of Maxentius was overwhelmed and Maxentius himself was drowned trying to cross back over the bridge. Constantine would soon become the sole ruler over this great empire. One year later in 313 A.D., he issued the “Edict of Milan” which brought a halt to the Christian persecution and granted absolute freedom of conscience. His world looked solid and sound.
But soon after a religious dispute arose that threatened to tear his empire apart. With the death of the last apostles, the last men who were personally taught by the apostles and became known as the “Church Fathers,” struggled to guide the body of believers and interpret the writings these men had left behind. The Holy Ghost leadership was in decline and with “intellect” replacing “spirituality,” the theologians with their wisdom and prudence, would endeavor to explain the mysteries of God without the spirit of truth to provide the revelations to do so. It was in the early period of time that some leaders began to drift away from the apostolic way of baptizing in the name of “Jesus,” and simply repeated the command Jesus had given in Matt. 28:19 to baptize in the name of the “Father,” and of the “Son,” and of the Holy Ghost, not understanding what the “name” was.
Irenaeus, a religious theologian who died in 200 A.D. and whose writings and teachings stirred an interest in “personages,” is considered to be the father of the “Trinitarian Concept.” But he was not a true Trinitarian and only a transitional figure at the most, just keeping the subject alive. A group of believers of that time known as “modilist” taught that the Son and the Holy Ghost were “modes” of the one father and not separate persons, and were now challenged by the theologians who were asking the driving questions concerning the “make up” of the Godhead._
Tertullian, another theologian who lived from 150 to 225 A.D. and whose life span overlapped that of Irenaeus, took up the study adding more to it and being the first one to coin the phrase of “Trinity.” Now in Constantine’s time, this subject had become so divisive that it was about to tear his empire apart and to settle the matter, he called a major council at Nicea in 325 A.D.
When the council came to order, two theologians of that day, Arius and Athanasius, both presbyters of the Church in Alexandria, were defenders of the two doctrinal issues.
Arius taught that to believe the Son of God as well as the Father is God would mean that there are two Gods, falling back into “heathenism.” He taught that Christ, although he is somewhat like God, he is not fully God and did not exist from eternity.
Athanasius taught that Christ is “Very God” and in this respect, he was very close to the truth. But he cannot be credited with the version of the trinity we have today. Why? Who is? Arius, whose doctrine was rejected at Nicea, wrote Constantine a conciliatory letter and in 335 A.D. at the conference of Tyrus, the Athanasius version was reversed in favor of that of Arius. But the dogged determination of Athanasius would result in the second reversal at the Conference of Constantinople in 381 with the “Three Cappadocians,” three men from that Providence, namely “Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa,” yielding a great influence on the final version. Most of the changes came after Nicea and reached finality sometime in the last quarter of the fourth century.
The history of what happened to the world at the hands of the Roman Catholic Church in the following centuries is hard to believe. The killing of the so-called “heretics” led to the slaughter of untold thousands of people, whole villages and invasions of countries.0
But in the 1500’s, an event called the “reformation,” led by men like Martin Luther, would bring a break from the Catholic tyranny. Such men as Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, John Knox and William Tyndale would die or spend the rest of their lives running from a religion they would not embrace.
In the 1700’s, George Whitefield and John Wesley would move the church closer to real worship. John Smith and Robert Hall would establish the Baptist Church in England, but none of these churches would return to the Apostolic doctrine of baptizing in the Name of Jesus and seeking the Holy Ghost experience with “speaking in tongues” as the evidence of receiving the early Church gift. It seemed that each generation would receive and understand only a certain amount of truth. The same problem plagued the Apostles in the days just before the Lord’s crucifixion when he told them in John 16:12-13, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth.”
And now as the 19th century was drawing to a close, there arose in the minds of men an interest in the Pentecostal experience that had been dormant for about 1800 years. Men’s minds had broken free from the death grip the Catholic Church had held on them for so long and God was revealing truths that they themselves did not completely understand.
This Pentecostal experience was about to turn the religious world upside down again just as it did the first time it came. God was putting the Pentecostal Spirit and mind in the men of the 20th century.
Churches started springing up with names that pertained to Pentecost such as “Pentecostal Holiness church, Apostolic Faith Association, and the Church of God” whose name did not mention Pentecost, but whose founder, Richard Spirling received the Holy Ghost in 1908.
On New Year’s Day, January 1, 1900, it happened. At the Bethel Gospel School located at Stones Folly near Topeka, Kansas, and ran by the Rev. Charles F. Parham, one of its students, a Miss Agnes N. Ozman requested the laying on of hands on her for the specific purpose of receiving the Holy Ghost. Her face lit up and immediately she began to speak in tongues.
The news spread quickly. The school was besieged with reporters from Topeka, Kansas City, St. Louis, and other cities. Reporters brought with them professors of language, foreigners, and Government interpreters, giving them the most crucial test. It was back, this thing was for real. The news spread fast, sweeping across the nation and into Canada. And where the news went, the experience followed. William Joseph Seymour, a black minister who stood outside the classroom and listened to Rev. Parham preach, took this message to Los Angeles and rented what was once a Methodist Church at 312 Azusa Street, and started a revival that would go seven days a week for three years. Groups and organizations receiving this experience sprang up all across the continent with miracles and healings welding them all together in one way or the other.
But a fault was developing under their foundation. They were still baptizing in the old Catholic formula “In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.”
At the worldwide camp meetings held in Los Angeles of 1901, Rev. R. E. McAlister was speaking and seemed to be saying that we had probably been baptizing incorrectly all these years. Causing an uproar with one of the members running to the stage and asking him not to preach this doctrine. But what had been a smoldering issue was now a full flame. This division became a fast growing problem.
J. W. Welch, General Chairman of the Assemblies of God, declared along with others, that some teeth had to be put into the pronouncement of faith. In the 1916 June Evangel he stated that the subject would be aired in its fullest at the General Council to be held at the Bethel Chapel in St. Louis in October 1-7, 1916.
At this council, five men, T.K. Leonard, S. A. Jamieson, S. H. Frodsham, E. N. Bell and D. W. Kerr made up the committee chosen to draw up the statement of fundamental truths. When it was read, the oneness group tried to strike some of the harsh Trinitarian ideas from the statement. Some bitter, cruel, and angry words were aimed at a number of the oneness ministers and especially the Rev. G. T. Haywood and a periodical he published called “A Voice In the Wilderness.” Sensing the struggle was lost, the Oneness group took little part in the remaining discussion. When the strong Trinitarian report was passed, they retired to the front of the meeting place to decide where to go from there.
That day, 156 ministers and numerous other assemblies were expelled from the ranks of this fellowship. There is a sad, dangerous possibility laying quietly in the fifth verse of the last chapter of Isaiah that points an unmistakable finger at this day in the history of Christianity, which reads, “Hear the word of the Lord, ye that tremble at His word: your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my namesake, said, let the Lord be glorified: but He shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed.”
The name is at the center of this prophetic warning and dropping the Jesus name mode of baptism is the crowning deficit, making this doctrine a two pronged error.
Today, this doctrine of “One God” and baptism in the Name of Jesus, is preached by several church organizations of which the “United Pentecostal Church, The Pentecostal Assemblies of the Word, the Assemblies of Jesus Christ, and the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith,” are preachers of this early church doctrine, which the Apostle Peter gave to the world at Pentecost. The Apostle Paul preached the exact same thing, even rebaptizing some of John’s disciples in the 19th chapter of Acts. Paul states in Galatians 1:12 that his knowledge came not from man but by revelation. The same Spirit that guided Peter was the giver of what Paul preached saying that if He or an angel from heaven preached any other gospel, let him be accursed, repeating this statement two times in a row in Galatians 1:8-9.
When you stand in the judgment, everything you’ve done in your life, whether in obedience or disobedience, will be either great joy or numbing fear. Standing there cloaked in this Catholic Dogma will not be one of the things you will want.
This article “The World Must Know” by Chester L. Schierbaum is excerpted from
* Fred J. Foster-Their Story: 20th Century Pentecostals
* David K. Bernard-The Oneness of God
* B. K Kuiper-The Church in History_The New Standard Encyclopedia 1959
* The World Must Know. Charleston, TN 37310